This exhibition is on at the NGV until March 2013. I found it a feast for the eyes with loads of colour and an enjoyment of a style that I had not been particularly drawn to before.
According to the NGV web site Neo-Impressionism is:
“A backlash against certain aspects of Impressionism, as well as an extension of others, Neo-Impressionism grew from the creative spark ignited by two young artists who became friends in 1884, the classically trained Georges Seurat and the self-taught Paul Signac.”
Neo-Impressionism has been linked with the emergence of Fauvism and Abstraction and hints of futures artist’s styles can be seen in many of the works. Rather than concentrating on merging colours or tonal blends, or even mixing colours, the paintings in this style have dabs or dots of colours adjacent to each other to create a visual effect. It is when you stand back that two or more colours may seem to merge to create the overall colour “look” or the tonal effect. Sometimes complementaries are used side by side and at other times tonal variations of the same or a similar colour may be used as a solid colour underneath with dots or dabs of colour over the top, or loads of “dabs” surrounding each other. Sometimes “dabs” are elongated in a spiralling pattern moving around the paintings, in a method that reminded me of Vincent Van Gogh – but with a much smaller application of the paint from the brush.
When used in large marks on the canvas I found this not as much to my liking and some of Seurat’s work I still find a bit “stiff” looking. There is also evidence of overlooking strict rules of perspective and proportion in some paintings.
The use of colour however, is striking and beautiful. I discovered a couple of artists that I didn’t know about at this exhibition and some new (to me) works that were just breathtaking. I particularly liked the night views of the city and a couple of the portraits were amazing. One in particular, which you see as you walk through the doorway into the room had me stopped and staring at it from a distance and close up for ages. The way the draping material in the dress and the skin tones, as well as the face, were done was something that I didn’t expect from this style of painting. Both cities and portraits are not my favourite subjects and yet the works were so beautiful and so capturing that I had to stop and drink them in. Beyond the style of painting was the sheer expertise shown by the artists in creating a work that could make you love it no matter what the topic was (mind you they were not of some of the horrific sides of human thought and behaviour).
I discovered Maximilien Luce, Paul Signac and Théo Van Rysselberghe (he did the beautiful portrait) at this exhibition. I didn’t know anything about any of them until yesterday and now I have had a taste of their talents.
Like a lot of other periods of art history, Neo-Impressionism isn’t necessarily a style I want to follow or take on. It may have aspects which I can adopt or I may just appreciate what I have learnt. It doesn’t really matter. I am a more well rounded artist today than I was two days ago, I know a little more than I did before. It was also fun. If we get taken back there for my Visual Arts course this year I won’t mind at all.